Ted Griggs, the founder of telephony startup Ribbit, which eventually sold to BT for $105 million, built his first product around offering a platform that developers could build upon. Now, he’s trying to take the same idea to HTML5 gaming with the launch of Goko, an HTML5 gaming platform that allows developers to create, distribute and monetize their games across multiple platforms.
Goko is coming out of stealth today with $8 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures and Alsop Louie Partners. The company is offering an SDK for HTML5 social games that can appear on iOS(s AAPL), Android, Facebook(s FB), Google+(s GOOG), Windows 8(s MSFT) and the web. Developers build once with Goko’s SDK and have their game distributed by Goko through the various channels.
The platform offers not just the ability to create games, but it has a suite of social features, monetization tools and analytics. So developers can integrate player authentication, leaderboards and achievements along with virtual goods, virtual stores and payments. That gives Goko developers a similar framework to those provided by app stores and social gaming platforms like OpenFeint.
But just as he did with Ribbit, Goko CEO Griggs knows that a new platform needs apps to show developers what it’s capable of. So Goko went out and licensed the rights to 150 games from Mayfair Games, Rio Grande Games, Reiner Knizia and other card and board games. The idea is to build online and mobile versions of existing card games that can run consistently on HTML5. The first games created by Goko are Dominion, which is now live, and Catan World, a massively multiplayer online game from the popular board game Settlers of Catan that is in beta. The company is working on creating 13 more games in partnership with third-party developers.
Griggs told me Goko offers developers a lot of value in that they can create one game that plays like a native title on different platforms. And with the full platform supporting them, developers can get better distribution with Goko pushing the game out to various platforms and cross promoting its titles. And it will handle the monetization like microtransactions, working with whatever payment systems are available on each platform.
HTML5 gaming still faces a lot of challenges because it’s harder to create a robust title that performs as well as a native game. But for card games and other simple, casual fare, HTML5 can make a lot of sense. With Goko supplying some of the other tools needed to make games successful and profitable, it has a shot at demonstrating the viability of HTML5 games.